aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, August 12, 2007
The Rudy the heartland loves
A compliment to Wayne Barrett’s piece…
Writing in the New Yorker, Peter Boyer asks Is what New York never liked about Rudy Giuliani exactly what the heartland loves?
Boyer’s says that it’s not his 9/11 reputation that could win over America, it’s the credit he gets for cleaning up New York:
[T]o many in the heartland Giuliani was heroic for what he did in New York before September 11th: his policy prescriptions and, mostly, his taming of the city’s liberal political culture-his famous crackdown on squeegee-men panhandlers, his workfare program, his attacks on controversial museum exhibits ("The idea of . . . so-called works of art in which people are throwing elephant dung at a picture of the Virgin Mary is sick!"), and the like. Speaking before the Alabama legislature this spring, he received a standing ovation, and Governor Bob Riley told him, “One of these days, you have to tell me how you really cleaned up New York.” To conservatives, pre-Giuliani New York was a study in failed liberalism, a city that had surrendered to moral and physical decay, crime, racial hucksterism, and ruinous economic pathologies. Perhaps the most common words that Giuliani heard when he travelled around the country this spring were epithets aimed at his city ("a crime-infested cesspool,” one Southern politician declared), offered without fear of giving offense. Giuliani cheerfully agreed.
As New York mayor he was a nasty, arrogant, righteous, authoritarian prick. With pique:
“Petty and vindictive” is the assessment of one of Giuliani’s most reliable foils, Stephen DiBrienza, a former City Councilman from Brooklyn who in 1998 was on the receiving end of a memorable act of mayoral pique. DiBrienza was chairman of the Council’s General Welfare Committee, which oversaw the city’s social- and human-services programs, principal targets of Giuliani’s reforms. One of the councilman’s abiding concerns was the warehousing of homeless people in huge city shelters, some of which held as many as a thousand beds. In December, 1998, DiBrienza sponsored a bill to limit the number of beds at city facilities to two hundred, and to require that social services be made available at the shelters.
Giuliani vehemently opposed the measure, arguing that it would require the city to close down its seven largest shelters. The Council passed the legislation, and he vetoed it. He said that if he was forced to close the big shelters he would have to build new ones-and he would put them in the districts of the chief proponents of the bill. The Council overrode the veto by a substantial margin. The Mayor called DiBrienza a “limousine liberal” and a “hypocrite,” and the administration announced plans to open a homeless shelter in a neighborhood in DiBrienza’s district. An eviction notice was sent to a state-run psychiatric clinic housed in a city-owned building, with the explanation that a homeless shelter was coming in. In addition to the clinic, which tended to five hundred patients a week, the building contained a senior-citizen center and a nonprofit children’s center.
“Think about it,” DiBrienza says now. “Here’s a guy who would go to that length, because I beat him on passing a law that requires smaller-bed shelters. Because we would not blink, he would throw kids, seniors, and the mentally ill out into the street. I mean, could I have written a better script to expose the fact of what he was?”
In the end, in the face of terrible publicity, the administration relented, and Giuliani dispatched a deputy, Joe Lhota, to broker a compromise. He himself offered no gesture of reconciliation.
Recall that just the other day Greg Sargent reported that “a top Rudy ally and longtime Rudy loyalist” came to Rudy’s defense for his claim that he was at Ground Zero as much, if not more, than “most” of the 9/11 recovery workers.
Who was the loyalist? Former deputy mayor Joe Lhota.
1998: how hot?
During the “Political Grapevine” segment of the August 10 edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume, guest host and chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle reported that NASA was forced “to admit it was wrong when it said that 1998 was the hottest year on record” and that NASA “now says 1934 was the hottest year, followed by 1998, then 1921.” But Angle did not inform viewers that NASA’s revision affected annual temperature rankings for the United States only; it had no effect on the annual global temperature rankings. According to NASA climate modeler Gavin A. Schmidt, 2005 remains the warmest year globally in the instrumental record, followed by 1998.
Angle further stated that “five of the hottest 10 years on record occurred before World War II.” In fact, this statement is true only for temperatures in the United States; according to NASA, all 10 of the warmest years globally in the instrumental record have occurred after 1989.
Angle’s report was accompanied by an on-screen graphic reading: “1998 Not So Hot.”
Let’s license 18-year-olds to drink
“The time has come to address the reality of alcohol in America”
CHOOSE RESPONSIBILITY is a nonprofit organization founded to stimulate informed and dispassionate public discussion about the presence of alcohol in American culture and to consider policies that will effectively empower young adults age 18 to 20 to make mature decisions about the place of alcohol in their own lives.
Alcohol is a reality in the lives of young Americans. It cannot be denied, ignored, or legislated away.
From today’s Parade Magazine:
The group promotes intensive education and drinking licenses for 18-year-olds, akin to learner’s permits for young drivers. Get caught drinking before 18 or break any of the strict rules after that, and the license is gone.
“We’re never going to get rid of underage drinking,” says John McCardell. “But if a kid knows he has to stay clean in order to get a license at 18, that’s a pretty powerful incentive.”
It’s not a radical notion. The rest of the world would likely find it rather cautious: Only three other countries-Mongolia, Palau and Indonesia-restrict purchasing drinks to those 21 or older. (Of course, some countries restrict alcohol for all citizens.) But the idea is far from mainstream in America. A 2005 ABC News poll, taken on the 21st anniversary of the 1984 federal law that forced states to raise their drinking ages, found that 78% of the public opposed a lower age; at the same time, 75% also said underage drinking was a “serious problem.”
The most vocal opponent of any policy change other than stricter more punitive laws is Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Celebrated for its successes and with a 2005 budget of over $50 million ($500,000 on lobbying), MADD has a huge apparatus vested in perpetuating the status quo and rejecting alternative strategies.
More from Parade:
Mothers Against Drunk Driving...dismisses McCardell as a dangerous gadfly. “Holy cow, this literally involves life and death,” says Charles A. Hurley, MADD’s chief executive officer [2005 salary $225,000]. “Life-and-death issues of kids are really too important for off-the-cuff musings.”
With that MADD dismisses the serious reality of college drinking today:
[C]ritics of the current drinking laws point out that a sizable minority of 18- to 20-year-olds, and roughly a fifth of 16- and 17-year-olds, already drink heavily often or on occasion. Indeed, the 21 drinking age isn’t so much a law as a slogan: Even supporters concede it is widely flouted and often not enforced. Yet, because 18-year-olds-adults in most other senses -generally can’t drink legally in bars and restaurants, they tend to drink in dorm rooms, on isolated fields and at unsupervised house parties, where adults can’t watch them. And in those environments, the drinking can be dangerous-especially among young people who have no practical experience with alcohol yet years of exposure to a social and advertising culture that encourages drinking.
“They don’t drink the way we drank a generation ago,” says Cynthia Kuhn of Duke University, an expert on the effects of drugs and alcohol. “There’s an increasing minority who establish blood-alcohol levels that are nearly lethal.” A practice known as “front-loadingÃ¢â‚¬Â�-getting drunk on cheap liquor before a night out-is common, and alcoholic blackouts are no longer rare. “It used to happen to the weird, stupid kid who couldn’t hold his liquor, and he did it once,” says Kuhn, who teaches alcohol education to student groups. “Now, it’s typical.” [...]
Drunkenness also spawns other problems-from assaults and rapes to accidents and alcohol poisonings, both fatal and nearly so. Young adults who are drinking illegally are reluctant to summon help when things go wrong. “If a student passes out, in the old days there was usually someone around to check,” says Alan Marlatt, a psychology professor at the University of Washington who helped develop a widely used alcohol-screening program called BASICS. “Now everyone’s afraid of getting caught.”
Critics of the 21-year-old drinking age contend that it is almost universally ignored and breeds a cynical disrespect for the law. About 80% of people have tried alcohol by age 20. Fairness aside, though, perhaps there is another pressing concern. “How can we reduce the harm?” asks David J. Hanson, an alcohol researcher and professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Potsdam. “I think we should teach young people how to drink as well as how not to drink.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
MADD has had great successes. It’s time to build on and move beyond them.
This little piggy got lucky
Every time we go through one of these “ain’t he cute, we’re so great, we saved an animal” feel-good human interest stories I am appalled. We pat ourselves on the back and gush about how humane we are for saving a single animal, without even a nod to how the rest of them fare:
Of the 60 million pigs in the United States, over 95 percent are continuously confined in metal buildings, including the almost five million sows in crates. In such setups, feed is automatically delivered to animals who are forced to urinate and defecate where they eat and sleep. Their waste festers in large pits a few feet below their hooves. Intense ammonia and hydrogen sulfide fumes from these pits fill pigs’ lungs and sensitive nostrils. No straw is provided to the animals because that would gum up the works (as it would if you tossed straw into your toilet). [...]
The stress, crowding and contamination inside confinement buildings foster disease, especially respiratory illnesses. In addition to toxic fumes, bacteria, yeast and molds have been recorded in swine buildings at a level more than 1,000 times higher than in normal air. To prevent disease outbreaks (and to stimulate faster growth), the hog industry adds more than 10 million pounds of antibiotics to its feed, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates. This mountain of drugs—a staggering three times more than all antibiotics used to treat human illnesses—is a grim yardstick of the wretchedness of these facilities.
That from Nicolette Hahn Niman, a lawyer and cattle rancher who is writing a book about the meat industry. She learned about the condition of pigs from her work as an environmental lawyer touring hog confinement operations to evaluate their polluting potential.
For more on that polluting potential, see Boss Hog - Pork’s Dirty Little Secret from the December 2006 Rolling Stone. A snippet:
The [holding ponds for industrial pig waste called] lagoons...are so viscous and venomous that if someone falls in it is foolish to try to save him. A few years ago, a truck driver in Oklahoma was transferring pig shit to a lagoon when he and his truck went over the side. It took almost three weeks to recover his body. In 1992, when a worker making repairs to a lagoon in Minnesota began to choke to death on the fumes, another worker dived in after him, and they died the same death. In another instance, a worker who was repairing a lagoon in Michigan was overcome by the fumes and fell in. His fifteen-year-old nephew dived in to save him but was overcome, the worker’s cousin went in to save the teenager but was overcome, the worker’s older brother dived in to save them but was overcome, and then the worker’s father dived in. They all died…
I’m no Animal Rights advocate, I lean towards Animal Welfare and would like more of us to debate the difference. (I link to my quoting of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma because I have yet to discover a source I trust on the differences in definition. Most seem more anti-PETA - I am not - than pro animal welfare).
For more on all of this I urge you to listen to the five-part podcast of the Food, Ethics and the Environment conference held at Princeton last fall. It includes a particularly compelling (and optimistic) speech by Eric Schlosser.
Lutherans vote not to punish gay ministers
A national assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America urged its bishops Saturday to refrain from defrocking gay and lesbian ministers who violate a celibacy rule, but it rejected measures that would have permitted ordaining gays churchwide.
Still, advocates for full inclusion of gays were encouraged, calling the resolution a powerful statement in support of clergy with same-sex partners. The conservative group Lutheran CORE was critical of the vote, saying bishops would now feel more secure in ignoring denomination policy.
The 538-431 vote came on the final day of a weeklong meeting in Chicago—and after emotional debate over how the denomination should interpret the Bible on homosexuality. [...]
“This is huge,” said Phil Soucy of Lutherans Concerned/North America, which lobbies on behalf of gays and lesbians. “More than half of the people in the Churchwide Assembly have said don’t punish anyone for what is a simple violation of the policy, where the offense is simply that they have a partner.”
LATER - Rejoicing at home in Atlanta:
With hugs and cheers Sunday, members of Atlanta’s oldest Lutheran church celebrated the pastor at the center of a battle over the treatment of gay clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. [...]
After Saturday’s vote, he will continue to be pastor at St. John’s at the request of the congregation, although his name will stay off the clergy list.
Schmeling said the removal of his name from the clergy roster will only present problems if he seeks a job with another congregation - and he said he has no plans to leave St. John’s.
“On a day-to-day basis, nothing changes here,” he said.